Global News: June 2005 Archives

Adyos, Cardinal Sin


Via Manuel L. Quezon III, I learned of the passing of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the retired Archbishop of Manila, who died early Tuesday morning.

Cardinal Sin was the de facto leader of the opposition in the Philippines during the autocratic rule of Ferdinand Marcos, who declared martial law in 1973 and remained in power until forced from office and the country in 1986. Under Sin's leadership, the Catholic Church in the Philippines was a safe haven for those working for democracy and in opposition to human rights abuses.

Following [Benigno] Aquino's assassination [in August 1983], Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of Manila and a leader of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, gradually shifted the hierarchy's stance from one of "critical collaboration" to one of open opposition [to the Marcos regime].

A prominent Catholic layman, Josť Concepcion, played a major role in reviving the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) with church support in 1983 in order to monitor the 1984 National Assembly elections. Both in the 1984 balloting and the February 7, 1986, presidential election, NAMFREL played a major role in preventing, or at least reporting, regime-instigated irregularities. The backbone of its organization was formed by parish priests and nuns in virtually every part of the country.

That's an excerpt from a web article called "From Aquino's Assassination to People's Power." The article goes on to mention Sin's behind-the-scenes role in uniting the opposition to fight Marcos's February 1986 "snap election":

Cardinal Sin, an astute negotiator described by one diplomat as "one of the best politicians in the Philippines," arranged a political alliance of convenience between Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel, who had announced his own candidacy but agreed to run as Aquino's vice-presidential candidate. Aquino had immense popular support and Laurel brought his superior organizational skills to the campaign. Their agreement to run together was arranged just in time for the deadline for submission of candidacies in early December. The church hierarchy gave its moral support to the opposition ticket. Cardinal Sin, realizing that poor people would not refuse money offered for votes and that the ethic of utang na loob would oblige them to vote for the briber, admonished the voters that an immoral contract was not binding and that they should vote according to their consciences.

After massive voter fraud was uncovered, pressure mounted for Marcos to step aside. When Marcos's Minister of Defense and the head of the national police force called for his resignation and garrisoned themselves near Manila, Cardinal Sin used a Catholic-run radio station to call on Filipinos to support the rebel officers and obstruct any effort by Marcos to attack them. Within a few days, the Marcoses had left the country, and Corazon Aquino took her rightful place as president.

Sin's leadership illustrates a key difference between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. In an authoritarian country like the Philippines under Marcos, strong, independent institutions are still permitted to exist and to operate with a free hand. Under totalitarian rule, such institutions are decimated and brought under control of the regime if not abolished outright. Under the right kind of leadership, an independent institution can provide protection for dissidents and can engage in some degree of direct criticism. Jaime Cardinal Sin was the right kind of leader.

During my summer in the Philippines (1983), the archbishop's name was fodder for many bad puns, and it didn't help that the hit movie of the summer was a locally-produced "bold" film called "Mortal Sin." (The Cardinal's brother, perhaps?) Through his leadership in the People Power Revolution of 1986, his name became associated in my mind with courage rather than comedy.

Some may criticize the Cardinal for using his position of spiritual leadership to wield political influence, but he used it sparingly and wisely to defeat injustice and oppression. I imagine he saw that God had placed him, like Esther, in that position "for such a time as this," to help his people, despite the risk -- how could he refuse to act?

Ave atque vale.

UPDATE: MLQ3 has links to coverage of Sin's death in the Philippine press.

The end of a three-centuries-long era: Reuters is moving its head office from London's famed Fleet Street to the Docklands. Reuters was the last major news organization headquartered there, once home to all of London's newspapers, broadsheets and tabloids alike. Former editor Bill Hagerty remembers the Street of Shame in its heyday. Mostly he remembers the pubs:

I spent around a quarter of a century in and around Fleet Street; 25 years roaming a film set of a workplace stocked with larger than life characters and larger than average drinks in The Stab in the Back or The Cock Tavern or El Vino.

Outside the buildings where the production of newspapers filled some 22 hours of most days of the year, The Street was one great watering hole, which, if you walked fast enough, could be traversed pub-to-pub during a rainstorm without getting very wet. ...

Features chief sub Des Lyons, cigarette ash tumbling down the front of his worn blazer, was another Stab pianist, especially on Thursday evening "Nights of Magic" when songs were sung, insults and sometimes punches exchanged and marriages crumbled in the heady atmosphere of booze, news and nothing-to-lose.

Hat tip for that item to Manuel L. Quezon III, who files the news in the Sic Transit Gloria Mundi department. He's covering a scandal involving another Gloria -- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, under pressure to resign after the release of a tape that implicates her in voter fraud. (That's what I gather, anyway. I'm still working my way through his archives and trying to sort out what's happening.) Blogs have played a role in exposing the tapes to the widest possible audience. I think it'll be worth keeping an eye on Mr. Quezon's blog as the story develops. For that, and also because he was kind enough to add me to his rotating overseas blogroll (Maraming salamat!), you'll find Manuel L. Quezon III on mine.

One more quick link -- double-checking if I remembered that bit of Tagalog correctly from 22 years ago (I did!), I found this handy website on the Tagalog language.

UPDATE: Here's the Wikipedia article on the 2005 Philippine Election Crisis. Note the disclaimer at the top of the article -- what you find when you go to that link may be quite different than what I'm seeing right now.

Over the weekend, French voters defeated a referendum to ratify the 300-page European Constitution, and yesterday the Netherlands voted no by an even larger margin, about 62%-38%. In both countries, nearly all major political parties and civic organizations supported passage. Instapundit linked to Netherlands-based, English language blog Zacht Ei, for results and commentary. Looking back through entries before the vote, I find this one, expressing optimism that not only will the Dutch defeat the Constitution, but that the defeat means something more profound for democracy and public discourse in that country.

As far as the Netherlands are concerned: in the past few days I've often wondered what worries Dutch politicians most: that a majority is considering to vote 'no', or that the country is finally engaged in the most intense political debate since the assassination of Pim Fortuyn. Indeed, the one thing that seemed to annoy most politicians about Fortuyn is that they suddenly had to debate issues which a large part of the electorate had wanted to address for years, and thanks to Fortuyn, they no longer could avoid it (though Ad Melkert famously tried).

I've felt strangely hopeful for the past few weeks, as the voice of dissent gradually increased in strength, that the tide may indeed be turning, and that this is the first step towards a better way of governing, in which politicians rule on behalf of the people rather than over them from a pedestal of feigned moral superiority.

My understanding of Dutch politics is limited, but it's my understanding that two or three parties have dominated -- trading places in the cabinet but operating under an unquestioned consensus. You get to an unstable political situation when no dominant party addresses an issue that matters to a large percentage of the population. In the Netherlands, immigration (particularly Muslim immigration) and European integration are two issues that had been ignored by the traditionally dominant parties.

The Netherlands sounds a lot like Tulsa: a powerful political elite confronted by upstart voices challenging the conventional wisdom, and a growing sense among the public that politicians should make government work for all the people, not just a favored few.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Global News category from June 2005.

Global News: May 2005 is the previous archive.

Global News: July 2005 is the next archive.

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